- "The heart! Shoot him in the heart!"
- ―Karen to Mike Norris.
Karen Barclay is a widowed mother who works at a Carson Pirie Scott & Co. department store to support herself and her son, Andy.
Child's Play (1988)
Her son Andy's 6th birthday comes up, and she knows that he really wants a Good Guy doll for his birthday present. However, as the dolls are too expensive for her salary, Karen instead gives him clothes for his birthday. After dropping off Andy at daycare, Karen resumes her work at the jewellery department. When she arrives, she gets a big surprise from her best friend Maggie. She exclaims that she found a peddler outside the store, who has a Good Guy doll for sale at half price. Knowing how disappointed Andy was, she decides to go for it and buys the doll. Their happy moment is ruined when they return, as their boss Mr. Criswell scolds them for leaving their posts. He adds that another employee has called in sick, and tells Karen that she has to take her spot. If she declines, she will be fired. Luckily though, Maggie offers to babysit Andy that night for her.
When Karen has free time before starting her extra shift, she goes home and surprises Andy with his new Good Guy doll, named Chucky. She goes back to work happy, but is shocked later that night when she returns home to see the police at her apartment. Her friend Maggie had fallen out of the window to her death. Upon entering to check on her son, she finds Andy in his bedroom being interviewed by a detective, Mike Norris. Karen is stunned by the news, but becomes infuriated when Norris implies Andy may have been involved, and forces the police out. Once they leave, she goes to check on her son, and sees him talking to his Good Guy doll. At first it seems innocent, but Andy adds that Chucky had said, "Aunt Maggie was a real bitch and got what she deserved". Disturbed, Karen tells him to stop making up stories, and tries to convince him that Chucky is not alive and just a doll. Karen drops off Andy at school the next day, but she is concerned. Because of Maggie's death the previous night and his strange behaviour regarding his doll, she worries about his sanity.
Before long, she is called at work by detective Norris. He asks if she picked up Andy yet, and when she says no, he shows her Andy being interviewed by his partner Jack. When Jack asks why Maggie fell out of the window, Andy says that she saw Chucky, and it scared her so much she fell down. Karen comes to Andy's side, and explains that no one believes him; if he does not tell the truth, the police will take him away from her. Scared, Andy confronts Chucky, begging him to say something. As he just repeats his doll lines, he runs to his mother, telling her Chucky is doing it on purpose and would kill him if he ever told anyone about him. Watching from behind the glass, Dr. Ardmore, announces his presence. After seeing more than enough, he suggests Andy stay a few days at the hospital, and with no real choice, Karen reluctantly hands over her son.
Defeated, Karen sits alone at home, looking at Chucky. Angered, she shouts at the doll, and then walks to the kitchen to have a glass of water. While in the kitchen she goes to throw away the Good Guy box the doll came in, but notices two batteries inside. Realizing that the doll has been running without batteries, she cautiously checks the doll's back again. Chucky's head sharply turns backwards as she looks, causing her to drop the doll. Despite her nerves, Karen pulls the doll out from under the couch. She continues to try and make the doll talk, threatening to throw him in the fireplace. Much to her own horror, Chucky comes alive and tries to attack her. While she fights him off as best she can, Chucky wounds her shoulder and leaves a bite mark on her arm. Karen tosses him over the other side of her living room, allowing him to sneak out of her apartment. Desperate for help, Karen reaches out to detective Norris. However, as he refuses to believe her story, she sets out to find the peddler who sold Chucky to her. Detective Norris warns her that the area is not a safe place at night, but Karen vows to free her son and leaves.
When she catches up to the peddler, he wants money for the answer. Nevertheless, as Karen does not have anything, he attempts to rape her. Fortunately, Norris had been following her, and manages to save her before she could be hurt. He forces the peddler answer the question, which turned out to be a burned out toy store. Mike is disturbed by this, and at first refuses to tell Karen. After some coaxing, he explains that he had killed the notorious Charles Lee Ray in that store the same night. He drives her home, and as they reach her apartment, Karen tries to warn Mike that the doll is not safe. Still refusing to believe, he makes her get out of the car.
The next day, determined to find more clues about how he became a doll, Karen goes to Charles Lee Ray's old hideout. She gets a surprise to find Norris also there, admitting that he believes her now. He reveals that he did some digging last night, and discovers that Charles used to be a voodoo student of a man named John Bishop. The two head to his apartment, but arrive too late, as Chucky had attacked and fatally wounded him. Before he dies, he tells Karen that Chucky plans to transfer his soul into Andy's body, and that the only way to kill him is through the heart. They hurry to the hospital to get Andy, but are met by Mike's partner Jack, who discloses that Dr. Ardmore is dead and Andy is missing. Knowing that she told her son to head for home when he is in trouble, her and Norris set their sights in the apartment. They reach the door just in time, as Chucky prepares the ritual. Chucky quickly subdues Norris with a baseball bat, but before he can land a fatal blow, Karen grabs a gun and shoots the doll. Turning his terror on her, the two fight, but Karen gets the upper hand. She throws him into the fireplace, and Andy to light a match and tosses it in, setting Chucky ablaze.
Thinking Chucky is dead, the two go to help the injured Mike Norris. Karen sends her son to get the first aid kit from under the sink, but as he does he discovers Chucky missing. Burnt beyond recognition, Chucky chases after Andy and Karen, who barricade themselves in the bedroom. She shoots him several times, missing his heart, but knocking off his head, arm, and leg. Later Mike's partner Jack arrives, and against Mike's wishes brings the doll head into the bedroom. While Jack tries to explain that the doll is not real, Chucky's body breaks through the air vent from behind and strangles him, listening to the instructions of Chucky's screaming severed head. Karen, remembering John's last words, screams at Mike to shoot Chucky in the heart. As she pulls the body off of Jack, Mike makes the direct shot, killing him. With the nightmare over, she takes her son and Mike to the hospital.
Karen's Ultimate Fate
While the police deny the story of the killer doll, Karen stands by her son. However, because the police are against her, Karen is deemed mentally unstable, and is forced to go through psychiatric evaluations. With no living relatives, her son is placed in the foster care system.
In the post-credits scene of Curse of Chucky, it is revealed that Karen is still alive and was released from the mental facility. It is strongly hinted at that she and detective Norris are married, but this is unconfirmed.
- In the Child's Play comic series, Karen is sent to a state hospital because the police did not believe her story of Chucky and Mike and Jack refused to back her up. After supposedly killing the doll once again, she is arrested and put on trial for murdering her psychiatrist, which in reality was Chucky's doing.